Editor's Note: This opinion column was written by Gov. Scott Walker.
The Kaukauna School District recently announced that our reforms will allow them to add more teachers, reduce class sizes and set funds aside to reward excellent teachers next school year. This is a prime example of how our budget and budget reforms protect middle class jobs and property taxpayers – as well as future generations.
The 2011-2013 state budget I recently signed transformed a $3.6 billion deficit into a surplus, it caps property taxes and it provides support for basic safety net programs to protect seniors and needy families. It does what we said we would do to get this state working again.
The balanced budget is built on our reforms that give schools and local governments the tools to balance their own budgets and protect jobs – without hurting taxpayers.
Recently a 60-year-old custodian wrote to me about his property taxes. He noted they went up $500 last year. When he retires he said, “My property tax bill will be my highest expense next to health insurance. I will have to find a part-time job just to live normally.”
Under our budget, the average property taxpayer will save $700. It is my hope that savings like this will help keep more people like that custodian safely in their homes.
Our balanced budget also provides a safety net. Over the next two years, nearly all new revenue that the state receives will go to programs that care for needy families and children – as well as our seniors.
As the father of two kids in a public high school, seeing our schools do well is important to me. Spending for our public schools continues to be the largest part of the budget at the same time that our reforms allow schools to put more of their resources into the classroom.
Our budget also allows us to look to the future. It is the first truly balanced budget in more than a decade. The national bond rating agencies call it “credit positive” because we make the structural changes needed to ensure stability for the future.
This fiscal stability will do more than balance the budget; it will help us improve the economy.
Already, we have seen signs of recovery. That’s vital to middle class families. Recently, a woman named Tina emailed me about her family of four (soon to be five). Her husband lost his job last year and she said that she’s hoping that our efforts to boost the economy will continue to grow jobs in this state.
Through May, Wisconsin has added more than 26,000 private sector jobs (13,000 in manufacturing). Our national ranking on good places to do business rose from 41 to 24. And a ranking of job creators in the state showed that 88 percent of them think we are going in the right direction this year (versus 10 percent in 2010).
Still, we can not rest until the economic recovery goes from Wall Street to Main Street and – most importantly – to every street in Wisconsin. That is why our budget includes incentives to create more manufacturing and agricultural jobs, in addition to increasing investments in Wisconsin-based companies that employee our residents.
We have to succeed so that families like Tina’s can get back to work. And working together, we will.
Our budget chooses to fix our problems now, so that our children and our grandchildren don't face the same challenges we face today. I want them to grow up in a Wisconsin even better than the Wisconsin I grew up in - that's what this budget sets out to do.